Down Noble from Hubbard, past a totalitarian building marked ILTACO, past a restaurant named after a John Hughes film, past an apartment building, a few sad winter trees and a scaffold jungle gym of high voltage lines lies the cave of the blob monster.
The Blob Monster of name is a giant statue, waxy and ridiculous. Ridged urethane foam, steel and fiberglass. Made 2009-2010 by an artist named Tony Tasset. Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago | Berlin.
On a pedestal of plywood and four-by-eights sits this turd of a deity, half melted box of crayons, half Oogie Boogie from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” It lunges out, hands always pressed as if to spring, grab and gotcha.
It’s a horror for a child. It’s beautiful.
Past the blob monster, where the employees of something called TSG park their cars in the middle of the street, is the cave.
A sign that says private property no trespassing, it’s marked up with runic-looking tags laughing at the thought that no one would come here.
Underneath the train tracks — the cave is made of train tracks — there are chandeliers, actual chandeliers of wrought iron handing from the cave ceiling. Terrifying.
Inside, you see gigantic tags, spray painted markings standing six feet tall on the cave back. One says “Vandals.” One says “Purge.”
You step in a few steps and turn around. The world explodes with color.
From top to bottom, tits to tails, the cave is covered in ink. Graffiti, vandalism, spray art, spray paint — call it all, it’s there.
Wiry runes, names, meaningless slogans like “Vandals take cash.” Empty spray cans and lids pepper the gravel and weeds lingering on the cave floor.
Surreal names and confounding taunts. Giant sunbursts of color shaded with hues so subtle it takes you a few seconds to realize spray cans don’t shade.
Some taggers crawled to the ceiling to paint their lines and bends, maybe with no meaning to anyone but themselves. Just a name. Just a squig. Just a “Kilroy was here” for the soldiers fighting an urban war.
“You mad?” is to the left of a tag scrawled over with a piss-stream of paint. “Put yo name bitch!” is to the right. The ultimate insult — they didn’t create, just sprayed to destroy and didn’t even sign it. A tagged tag. Vandalism vandalized.
What is this place where gangs and artists come to work, to climb, to crawl, to mark over marked over spots, to create beautiful shading, bright colors, explosive lettering underneath a tragic little cave no one can see?
Do you have to earn your way into here? Do you have to come up? Or can you just go? Is this where names are made? Is this the sandbox for people to later do bigger, greater, more impressive, more beautiful, more wonderful, more explosive and amazing tags and graffiti?
You don’t know which are gang tags, which aren’t. The familiar sights of gangs don’t seem to be here, the pitchforks and stars of the Folks and People nations either missed or missed by you.
Is this the war zone? Or is it the place where war takes a cease fire and art takes over?
What is this place, this Ali Baba cave of 40 thieves and 40 vandals?
Under train tracks old enough to have small stalactites dripping from the top, alongside a building marked and remarked with novae of acrylic, down a dark corridor with the lights of downtown to one side and the endless rails to oblivion down the other — what is this place, this cave protected by the blob monster?